Lantern Record Attempt Grounded

The military has cancelled an event to launch thousands of lanterns to mark Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai after critics slammed the plan for posing a danger to air traffic and the environment.

The military-run Huai Tueng Thao tourism promotion office, better known as Army Land, had planned to co-organise the activity in Mae Rim District to showcase “Lanna culture” and to try and set a Guinness World Record by launching 20,000 lanterns — mostly by Chinese tourists.

Lanna refers to the name of an ancient kingdom that flourished in northern Thailand between the 13th and 18th centuries. But opponents argued that launching lanterns into the sky was not part of authentic Lanna culture and warned it would only lead to problems ranging from accidental fires and aviation disruption to lanterns littering the countryside.

The criticism prompted Maj Gen Suebsakul Buarawong, commander of 33rd Military Circle in Chiang Mai to cancel the event at Huai Tueng Thao reservoir. Any such recreational activity must respect Lanna tradition and environmental conservation, he said.

His decision showed “soldiers still listen to the people”, Saowakhon Sriboonruang, coordinator of the Rak Chiang Mai Network, a Chiang Mai-based civic group, said yesterday. However, she said her network will keep gathering names of opponents and give the list to the Chiang Mai governor.

Loy Krathong, locally known as yi peng, has been a major festival since the Lanna period, but lanterns had nothing to do with this centuries-old tradition. Launching lanterns began and was falsely claimed to be part of the festival in order to promote tourism, according to critics.